A silverfish appeared in my bathroom sink this morning. As I studied my reflection – the bean-shaped scar on my chin, my fleshy nose, high boney cheeks, every other feature unique to me – the metallic shine of the silverfish stood out against the porcelain. I leaned closer to the mirror and asked the glass for help.
“Please,” I said. “I need something familiar.”
I could smell the sweet toxicity of the toothpaste splatters on the mirror, left by my previous lover, an alcoholic who had trouble climaxing because he’d trained himself to recycle tension rather than release it. He had thin lips and two gold molars that bounced light when he laughed. He used to breathe on my cheek at night. He told me the angles of my face reminded him of what was good. He left me, and I only knew myself through him.
The silverfish was still. Its flat spindle body was slightly curved, as if the bug had frozen in motion to watch me lose my mind. I thought about cupping the silverfish in my hands and releasing it elsewhere, but it had witnessed too much, so I drowned it.
Later that day, I returned to the bathroom in another attempt to recognize myself, and the silverfish had reappeared in the same place, still looking like a tiny curved carrot. I looked at my eyes, stitched with red because I hadn’t been sleeping, then back to the silverfish. The bug knew I was a hostage to my own flesh. It knew I could no longer sleep alone. It knew I had lost myself. I drowned it again, this time letting the faucet run for almost a minute. “Damn you,” I said.
When the silverfish appeared the third time, I called pest control. A man with a nasal voice answered, and I told him the gist of it.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Silverfish are nocturnal.”
“I’m sure it’s coming up from the drain,” I said. “I’m sure there are a slew of them hiding in the pipes.”
I told him that the silverfish watched me. He said he’d have an exterminator come take a look later in the day.
The day before my lover left, he’d worn a light green windbreaker with pink on the sleeves. I’d never seen him wear it. We sat outside at the wicker table we’d chosen together, and I told him the jacket was way too small for him. He looked at his palms and seemed to be deciphering his own skin. He never said goodbye, just left in the middle of the night, taking his pillow with him.
As expected, when I returned to the bathroom, the silverfish was back. Someone knocked on the front door. I put my hand on the faucet, ready to rinse it away yet again. The silverfish eyed my inadequacy, a sign of what my life would be from now on. The knocking continued. I thought about how I would feel if the silverfish never returned, and decided to let it be, because it had become familiar.